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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
June 21, 2004
Volume 39, Number 16

UNM selected for MURI funding

By Steve Carr

Physics and Astronomy Professor Mansoor Sheik-Bahae spearheads UNM's MURI project. "We have already succeeded in cooling ultrapure glasses and crystals," he said. "No semiconductor has ever been cooled, but we think we are getting close."
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced recently that 31 awards to universities, including UNM, were awarded as part of the DoD’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

A total of 24 academic institutions will receive the grants to conduct multidisciplinary research in 22 topic areas of basic science and engineering. UNM’s proposal, titled “Consortium for Laser Cooling in Solids,” is spearheaded by Physics and Astronomy Professor Mansoor Sheik-Bahae.

UNM will collaborate with the University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University, but will receive the bulk of the $4 million five-year grant -- approximately $3.4 million. The project grew out of a collaboration with Los Alamos National Lab conducted more than seven years ago.

Laser cooling is the process of lowering the temperature of a solid by shining laser light on it. It can be used to cool infrared or gamma ray sensors to cryogenic temperatures to increase sensitivity.

Down the road, the technique may be used to cool superconductor electronics.

The national labs were behind the project and promoted the topic to the DoD. “They recognized the importance of the project,” said Sheik-Bahae. “As physicists and scientists, we like challenges. I think basic research, such as this, offers problems we like to solve with the added bonus that an important application is in sight.”